Difference between revisions of "Chișinău"
Revision as of 10:20, 5 September 2012
Chişinău  (Russian Kishinyov, Ukrainian Kishiniv, pronounced "Kishinau" with "nau" as in the English word "know") is the capital of Moldova with a population of around 790,000 plus 250,000 people coming each day for work and entertainment from all over the country and abroad. City's territory with nearest suburbs cover the area of 635 sq.km.
Chisinau is very wealthy compared to the rest of the country, as Moldova is not a very rich country. As is common in developing countries, you are likely to see great disparities in wealth. It's also very much a post-Soviet city, with both the good and bad qualities associated with it. By other side you'll see many modern and great buildings of steel, concrete and glass.
The majority of the middle and working class population lives in blocks of flats. These look standardly, maybe not too nice but are not "dangerous" as similar areas may be considered to be in Western Europe or the United Kingdom. Do not come to Moldova expecting Western standards everywhere, but the situation is improving every year. Here you can see 4 and 5 star hotels, great restaurants and cafes, coffee houses and bars. Many restaurants and almost all the hotels in the city accept the credit cards. There are hundreds of ATMs throughout the city where you can use your bank cards.
Crime is relatively low although usual precautions apply.
Chişinău International Airport  is served by many airlines like AirBaltic , Air Moldova , Austrian , Lufthansa , Moldavian Airlines , Tarom , Turkish Airlines  and S7 Aircompany with flights around the Europe and Asia, notably to Athens, Bucharest, Budapest, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Madrid, Moscow, Munich, Riga, Rome, Timisoara, Vienna, Vilnius, Saint -Petersburg, Varna, Frankfurt, Paris, London, Bolognaand Surgut.
There are three taxi companies which operate at the airport. The fixed fares range from about 80 to 120 MDL depending on which sector of the city you are going. While better than in the past, the taxi system is still not perfect and it is likely they will try to come up with a reason to charge you extra. It is cheaper to wait for a taxi dropping someone off at the airport and use that one to return to your destination. Always agree the price before entering the taxi. The cheaper alternative is to take minibus № 165 which takes you trough Botanica to the center, Izmail street. Tickets cost 3 lei; luggage will cost you another ticket. The minibuses are white vans leaving from the airport parking lot. If you leave the airport building from the arrivals area, turn right and walk towards the end of the building. The buses are marked with the number 165 on a sign behind the windshield and you can flag one down passing you, or walk up to the ones still parking. Don't open the sliding door even though you have luggage; for some reason they always use the co-drivers door to get on and off.
There is one Central Railway Station. The trains depart to Europe through Romania and to CIS (Community of Independent States), especially to Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia.
The most popular route is from Bucharest, daily overnight trains leave Gara de Nord station at 5:10 PM and arrives 3:45 PM next day, with a journey time of nearly 24 hours. This sleeper service is comfortable, although the toilets are not quite up to European standards. Customs and bogey change is at the border town of Ungheni.
Another useful route is from Warsaw, departing every second day taking two nights (38 h). Chişinău is served by one route from Russia. Several cities in Ukraine also have daily connections.
Note that the quality of the roads in Moldova is quite bad. The road leading from Chisinau to Leuseni is pretty nice. You are likely to be sharing the road with trucks, cars, and livestock, all moving at various speeds without a lot of regard for safety.
As the driving and quality of the roads in Moldova is different to what you as a Westerner will probably be used to, it is thus better to rely on public transport, which is very cheap and (mostly) reliable.
Note that Chisinau has three bus stations - the central one (serving mainly in-country destinations), Gara de Nord (for in-country destinations on the northern part of the country like Sorocca, Rezina, Ocnita, for travel to Odessa, Kyiv and elsewhere in Ukraine) and the larger Gara de Sud (for in-country destinations in the southern part of the country like Comrat, Cahul and for journeys to Romania). You can reach Gara de Sud from central Chisinau on rutiera (microbus) number 120, 124, 180 or 192 for 3 lei. Gara Nord is served by rutiera 163 and trolleybus #9, along with a bunch of others. You can check bus timetables (both in-country, and international destinations) at this website:  .
There are several buses throughout the day from Bucharest, Odessa, Iasi, Chernivtsi, and Lviv. The journey to/from Odessa takes around five hours and costs around $10 US. Most Odessa-bound buses go through southern Moldova, avoiding the Transnistrian region - these will be marked as going through Palanka or Causeni. The journey to Iasi is three and a half hours long, with travel on to Brasov (price to Iasi:100 lei). There are many buses and maxi-taxis headed to Bender and Tiraspol in Transnistria, about one every forty minutes (25 lei for a ninety minute journey).
It is highly recommendable as a non Russian or Romanian speaking person, to have a local person/hotel or restaurant call your taxi, as few Taxi drivers speak proper English. In case you need a receipt for your travel, you need to ask for this specifically when ordering. Also payment by credit card is impossible.
Please remember to bring small cash, as sometimes they will not be "able" to give back on anything larger than 50 bills, but this is rare. Average prices vary across company/individual taxi driver, and it is fairly inconsistent. Expect prices between 30-60 for shorter rides and 50-150 Lei for longer rides. From Malldova to Airport the prices vary and should be expected to be around 80-130 Lei.
Pay good attention to the traffic as a pedestrian, as the driving skills are rather poor combined with the fact that no one really follows normal traffic laws. Accidents are often occuring, and pedestrians should be very careful in terms of crossing streets and especially avoid the Maxi-taxis
Cathedral Park - Better known as Central Park, it is in the very centre. The centre is adorned with the Nativity Cathedral, the main church for the city. To the Southwest is the Triumph arch constructed in 1841 which is the center piece of The Great National Assembly Square. Across Stefan cel Mare Boulevard is the Government House. The city’s biggest flower market is on the north side of the park along Banulescu Bodoni street. At the intersection of Stefan cel Mare and Banulescu Bodoni is a statue of Stefan cel Mare.
Pushkin Museum, Str Anton Pann 19 - you can visit the house where Pushkin lived when in exile from Russia during the years 1820-23.
National Archaeology & History Museum, Str 31 August 1989, 121A - Spend a few hours exploring the exhibits.
National Ethnographic and Nature Museum, Str M Kogălniceanu 82
National Museum of Fine Arts, Str 31 August 1989, 115
Memorial Park - A little way-out of the center is the is a memorial commemorating the victory of the Soviet army in WWII. There is also an eternal flame in memory of Chişinău's unknown soldiers who died in WWII. It's behind the military and civilian cemeteries.
Opera and Ballet Theatre - catch a show of one of the top ballet companies in Eastern Europe. The company has toured all over the world, from Tokyo to Johannesburg. Show times and information can be found at their website 
There are excessive number of shops, malls and trade centers in Chisinau. Only market places are at about 41. If you are just visiting Chişinău, consider buying a special cognac selection of about 30 small bottles, with different sorts of cognac. It can make a nice gift. Moldovan wines are deservedly famous across the former Soviet Union, yet are little known in Europe. Take the opportunity to sample them. Cigarettes are also much cheaper in Moldova than in the EU, so you might do well to stock up before leaving the country (although note that there are strict limits on the number of cigarettes you can bring across an EU border).
Chisinau Souvenir Bazaar - The city's main artisan market. One can find hand made crafts, paintings and relics from the Soviet days. English is limited, but many products have a marked price. Negotiating prices is acceptable. Located on Stefan cel Mare boulevard adjacent to the Mihail Eminescu National Theatre at Stefan cel Mare 152.
Unic - An all purpose shopping center in Chisinau, but it is rather soviet-style. For a better shopping experience, go to MallDova or Sun City One can buy just about anything needed when in Moldova. The selection on souvenirs is smaller and many will not be hand made. Located on the corner of Stefan cel Mare and Ismail.
Stefan cel Mare - This is Chisinau's main street. Not only is it great for people watching, it is also lined with numerous shops and restaurants.
Piata Centralâ - Chisinau's outdoor market.
Mall Dova - The largest western style mall in Chisinau. Most stores and products are generic and could be bought at any other mall in any country in the world.
Chisinau is a good place for food lovers. There are plenty of good places to eat all over Chisinau. The cheap, tasty food that is very popular with the locals is served in most places. For better service and more diverse food selection, there are a lot of small restaurants and cafes. Some restaurants have prices comparable to Europe, although if you eat only in those you may find yourself being ripped off. For a quick lunch, try fast food stores and pizzerias, these can be found on nearly every corner. Beef is often under the veal part of the menu.
For groceries, there are small shops all over. Some are even located right in front of the apartment blocks just a few steps away from their entrances. For harder-to-find items, head to a supermarket. You will frequently also see markets or even one or two random people selling fruit and vegetables, and sometimes other products such as honey or "brinza" (type of cheese). The majority of these are fresh and perfectly safe to eat and frequently better than what is found in a supermarket.
For fresh fruits and vegetables, markets are the best option. Most of the items for sale are locally-produced, but there are a lot of sellers who sell imports; mostly oranges, bananas and other tropical fruits/vegetables. It is best to buy meat and dairy products from supermarkets or shops. The quality is much better than in the market, and the prices are pretty much the same.
The orange Beleas stalls all around the city offer cheap and warm food which is very good in winter, and usually "quick and tasty" as advertised (repede si gustos) in Romanian. However they may not always heat it up properly which can mean it might not be so good so ask for fierbinte (boiling). Also, although it is usually nice, don't think about where it might have been before you bought it.
The cafe at Sun City that is built over the roadway has some of the best zaema in the city, despite its slow service.
Foisor for cheap blini (pancakes/crepes) and zaema at 16 lei.
Andy's Pizza is a fast food restaurant which is found all over the city. The quality of the food is unfortunately very variable depending on which dish and which outlet you go to, with some of the food being absolutely gross especially the pizza.
Pizza Celentano, str. Puskin, . nice pizzas, chain famous in Ukraine, has three branches.
Pizza House, 133 Stefan Cel Mare, tel: 23-51-62, serves a variety of dishes including pizza, pasta and local favorites. They have a lunch special for about 50 Lei. Prices for a full meal range 40-100 Lei.
La Placinte is another restaurant owned by the same people, serving traditional Moldovan cuisine. The quality of the food is far more reliable and good, at decent affordable prices far below that found in Western Europe.
The canteen in the basement of the court building across from ASEM University (Academia de Studii Economice din Moldova) is open from 11-12 and 1-4. The simple food is a great value for money (25 lei for soup, main dish, and chefir; 40 lei max for a meal; 2 lei for tea).
Robin pub - medium sized place with a friendly English style pub atmosphere. This pub has a wide variety of meals from fish to pasta. Staff know a little English and menu is in English as well. This place is all smoking area. The food is fast, hot and decent.
You might also enjoy eating on the roof of McDonald's where the menu is virtually the same as in America (plus beer).
The restaurant owned by the Green Hills company on Stephan Cel Mare is excellent, prices are comparable to European ones.
Symposium wine bar, offers a variety of meals including steak, lamb, and pasta. They have an excellent selection of Moldovan wines. Prices for a full meal with drinks range from 250-500 Lei.
Beer House bar and restaurant on bd C. Negruzzi, has a wide range of beers (some brewed on the premises) and a good menu. Prices for a full meal with drinks range from 150-500 Lei.
Drinks such as vodka are served on their own. So don't be surprised if your vodka sprite is served as a 2 separate drinks. Also club soda seems difficult to procure, at least in English.
One of the very best wines of Moldova is from the wine plantation of Purcari and even if you live in the United States you can buy Purcari wines from Purcari and their importer Moldova Traders ( www.moldovtraders.com )
There are more than 40 night clubs in Chisinau, making its night life vibrant and dynamic. Here are some of the best of them.
City club - tucked in behind the parliament buildings this dome shaped club offers tables that can be reserved for 300 lei in the back and 200 lei right on the dance floor. All the tables may look reserved but they are open for purchase. Listen to the electronic music amongst the red decor. 35 lei cover. 2 floors. Coat check is available. Do not be surprised if the bouncers begin shoving you around - if you get too close to a VIP table, take a drink too far from the bar, or do not move out of the way quickly enough when performers enter the dancefloor.
Booze time club - a club with a slight rustic feel as it is nearly all wood. Somewhat of a university bar feel. Electronic music. Upstairs bar and lounge area. No cover. Connected to City club but for staff only. Booze time will be more full than city on off nights. Coat check available. Bartenders here like to put on a show as well.
Deja vu - a smaller basement pub club. Quite intimate but watch out for the harmless bar top antics where staff pour drinks down customers' throats in a sexually suggestive manner. Be sure to order the flaming sambuca. It's a good show. A mix of pop electronica and club rnb. just don't be surprised if your bar tab ends up being twice as high as expected. But as some shots involve 3-4 staff working to keep you safe as the entire bar is engulfed in flames while bar tenders juggle liqueur bottles turned Molotov cocktails. Cash only (they take euros).
Drive - destination for those who appreciate the real quality club recreation. Powerful energy and surrounding you absolutely powerless sound and modern rhythm will make you to love it at a glance. A wide bar range and a variety of recipes will surprise even the most demanding taste. Also, there is always fresh beer, and a huge selection of cocktails and alcoholic drinks.
Military - the place where Military Club now occupies, brought together people that were symbols of their times. People like Vladimir Visotsky, Andrei Tarkovsky, Andrei Mironov, Nona Mordukova, Stefan Petrache, Mashina Vremeni, and many others. Today, this plight is continued by the heroes of our time. On this same place, but with a different name – Military Club, the bright and orange future, promises a new milestone in the capital-city era.
rooms(some are windowless). Service is poor and visitors are not allowed to enter the hotel.
Ambulance - 903
Police - 902
Fire brigade - 901
Gas intervention -904
Telephone directory service by Moldtelecom - 1189 (taxable)
Emergency (calls are made by mobile phones with no SIM card) - 112
Use your common sense at all times! Be aware that when entering some buildings at night, you will have to walk through unlit alleyways. So when traveling through Chişinău, always carry a small flash light. The street lights are quite sparsely positioned and it is a good idea to plan your arrival for day-light hours.
Watch out about night life: the U.S. State Department warns about Russian dating schemes also very common in Moldova and other kind of financial scams. Though, the average backpacker has very little to worry about unless looking for a "russian bride".
Also, it is worth noting there is occasional police corruption aimed at foreigners. This will usually involve getting arrested for something ridiculously minor, with extra fictional offences added on for dramatic effect, in an attempt to scare you into paying a "high" bribe (maybe a few euros). Most police will not speak any English, and you can expect a lengthy lecture in Romanian/Russian. Be sure to always carry at least a good quality photocopy of your passports. However, this corruption us very rare and usually requires one does something actually illegal.
English is spoken in restaurants and some of the markets. Even some taxi drivers speak a little English. Young people are much more likely to speak English than the older generation. In Chişinău most people know Russian and Romanian . If you plan to travel outside Chişinău it would be helpful to pick up some Romanian and about the only language spoken outside of the city is Romanian. In Gagauzia a Turkish dialect is spoken. Only 30% of the people in Moldova speak some English and the country is far behind with schools that teach the English language.
There is only a single national broadcast television station. For the most part, TV channels are piped in from Russia, Ukraine, Romania and even Georgia. Euronews, Eurosport, CNN, Discovery Channel, etc. are on cable, but in Russian mostly. Not every home in the city has continual hot water. If you will be staying in a private home, be sure to ASK whether there is 24-hour hot water.
There are many embassies and consulates in Chisinau. here are some of them.
Bucharest - many companies operate 'rutieras' during the day and larger coaches during the night heading to Bucharest. The fare with one particular company was 225 MDL for an 8-9 hour journey with hourly departures in the evening. There was no toilet on the bus but several stops were made by the bus driver. Most companies were located in the central bus station behind the Central Market, not the southern bus station as indicated above.
Iaşi - coach services to the student city of Iaşi (pron. yash) are operated from Gare de sud. The fare is 110 MDL and the trip takes around 4-5 hours. The contrasts between Chisinau and Iasi are quite significant and that makes this trip an interesting option if you are heading into Romania from Chisinau.
Cricova - a Chisinau suburb located close to the city. Famous for its fabulous winery. An excursion, including tasting the dishes in its restaurant, plus wine souvenir will cost you 500 lei.
Ghidighici - a lake and Chisinau suburb located close to the city in its northern part. It is 9 km. in length and at about 1 km. in width. Ghidighici is also, called as "Chisinau sea". there are many resorts and recreation facilities along its shores. One of the most preferable place for recreations for city locals.
Western Club  - amazing minizoo 10km from Chisinau, wide variety of all animals, African birds and Australian black swans, horse riding and accommodation available, owned by very friendly Igor and his wife who is a vet and their son Dima who speaks English.
Mileştii Mici  - biggest wine cellar in Europe (Guinness Book of World Records) - length 200 km.